Thing (Thrill Jockey, 2010)
For: NEU!, Kraftwerk, Man or Astro Man?
Byline:Twenty years is a long time to be doing the same thing. Luckily, more of the same is just what fans want, and these Thrill Jockey vets deliver on nearly every front.
*Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from inyourspeakers, LLC. Please read full review here.*
...Is it a difficult thing to be a true Trans Am fan? It’s not that the band isn’t talented. To the contrary, the veteran Thrill Jockey trio has enough mega drum fills, frenetic synth lines and gnarly guitar work to fill that basket nicely. It’s not that they don’t have great songs. Coming up on 20 years of life and nine full-length albums deep now, the band has been known to put together a plethora of punchy, positively catchy tunes. They pull from familiar places—krautrock, classic rock, prog, electro—and they combine them in a way that is geek-meets-muscle, sometimes atmospheric, sometimes motorik, and often sweaty, electrically charged and intense. So why aren’t these guys as popular as, say, Tool—their unlikely headline-buddies on tour a couple of years back? What’s kept Trans Am with the same label for such a long time? Why does the band fail to truly grow?
It might be that Trans Am is a bit ridiculous. Just look at the album artwork for Thing. It’s full-on 80s future-retro sci-fi horror. Look at the silliness of the song titles—”Naked Singularity,” “Interstellar Drift,” “Maximum Yield,” to name a few. Listen to what’s going on in the album—odd time signatures for the sake of odd time signatures, way over the top drum cadenzas (with roto toms... remember those?), and weird, dated vocorder vocals. The key to Trans Am is to recognize their inscrutable sense of humor, and Thing succeeds largely along these lines: the band has found a consistent path following their tongue-in-cheek, unabashedly nostalgic ways, and exploding that course in ways that are technically bewildering, unapologetic and focused and showcase a seasoned tightness that can only come from having such a long and storied past. Therefore, Thing’s pitfalls are only apparent if you haven’t bought into the Trans Am phenom first. As is often the case, the best way to get into the band would be to pick up their earlier records before attempting to fully digest Thing’s wide-eyed science-fiction-fried tracks. Trans Am takes some work, but the labors are rewarding on many levels.
Granted, there’s nothing here that one would call remotely revolutionary, even (and especially) by the band’s own standards. Twenty years have given the group a solid formula, and it’s one that stays largely intact throughout Thing’s twelve tracks. Drumming is predictably top-notch, the bass drum absolutely locked in to the swerving syncopation of the staccato’d synth-bass stabs (see “Bad Vibes” specifically). The tones used are more of the same too—the band does little to explore the sonic palate beyond simple Korg synths that are saturated with buzzy, scuzzy effects and phased with moderation between right and left channels. Guitars take a more prominent stance toward the end of the record, which offer the album’s more accessible (if you can call them that) and rewarding tracks, like “Interstellar Drift” which harkens back to jams as old as “Ballbadaos” from their debut.....
Please Read the full review on (www.inyourspeakers.com)